Privacy lawyer who challenged cyberbullying law worries new bill swings too far
'It will ultimately result in it being a barrier to access to justice,' says David Fraser
The privacy lawyer who challenged Nova Scotia's Cyber-Safety Act two years ago over concerns it violated the rights of accused says the legislation intended to replace it now puts far too much of the burden on victims of cyberbullying.
"I'm afraid the pendulum has swung a little bit too far," David Fraser, a lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Halifax, said in an interview.
Fraser specializes in internet and privacy matters and was instrumental in the province's Cyber-Safety Act being declared unconstitutional in 2015. He called it "a dumpster fire" in court and a judge later described it as a "colossal failure."
Earlier this month, the Liberal government introduced Bill 27, the Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act, and said it expects it to be passed in the spring.
The proposed law more narrowly defines cyberbullying. It also takes away the ability of Cyberscan, the unit that enforced the previous law, to seek court orders compelling perpetrators to stop. Under the new law, it would be up to individual victims to seek recourse through the courts.
'They need to get it right'
While Fraser agreed Cyberscan should be stripped of its enforcement abilities, which he said too easily infringed on freedom of speech, he worried the alternative in the new legislation will be a "barrier" for victims.
"Either you have to hire a lawyer, which is going to be quite expensive, or you are going to find yourself within the justice system, which is very peculiar," he said.
In a blog post, Fraser suggested there should be a "less formal approach" that is fair to the accused but where a victim can tell their story to a judge without having to hire a lawyer or understand details of court procedures.
"I think they need to get it right," Fraser said of the government. "If they pass a law that ultimately is going to be inaccessible to most individuals, then it's just window dressing."